Friday, September 23, 2011

Flying to the Moon from Leyte and Back

How many times one can possibly fall in love?

Twice? Thrice?

Me? I fall every time I see the sun sets and rises! And when I went to Leyte, I’ve fallen in love countless times! (kacheeeeeezy! Echosera! Ahahahaha!)

I went to Leyte for a qualitative research method training composed also of MA students from DENR, DAR and VSU Alang-alang and us, from NGO. This is an opportunity to have short glances of love on this place. But this entails also knowing the little details that can make you squirm but its little charm will make you want to come back and fall in love all over again. Forgive me for the cheesiness but let me count the ways why I fell in love in Leyte.

I’ve fallen in love with Visayas State University’s campus! Visayas State University is the only university in the Visayas acknowledged by the Department of Tourism as a tourist destination because of its diverse flora and fauna bounding the mainland and sea from side to side. They have three ecosystem- from the mountains, lowlands to the sea! The campus covers around 8,000 hectares of land including the land reservation area in Mount Pangasugan.
With Mount Pangasugan (upper campus) and the Camotes Sea (lower campus), its administration promotes the school as a Resort University" for it has resorts, seafront suites, cottages, and bungalows catering to visitors and tourists coming over to the university.

I visited their rainforest hardening agroecological division. This is where truly endemic endangered indigenous species of trees- mala-kawayan, apitong, dao, diit and so many other species and varieties that I could not remember the name and even never heard of. One of the problems in our reforestation project is introducing foreign species like gemelina, falcata, ipil-ipil (we have a native ipil-ipil but it’s already endangered)- some fast growing trees that annihilated our endemic species. Introducing foreign species when we do not even have an inventory of our local species of trees! The thinking that anything foreign is superior made it impossible for our implementers to undertake comprehensive research/ databank of our own diverse trees. I was even schocked that mahogany is not endemic to us! When asked what’s the best tree to plant in reforestation project, Doc Buboy never gives a straight answer. Soil analysis, water holding capacity, slope are just of the many things to be considered to make it successful. For instance, you cannot plant a certain variety of hard wood speciez at a sloping hill when it is not suitable for high altitude places. Or there are plant species good for watery area like dao. Mala-kawayan, for instance are best suitable in high altitude area.
Doc Buboy Dargantes explaining tress adaptability and the mala-kawayan's agroecological properties (I could not understand some of the terms! hahahaha!)

The National Greening Program (NGP) of the present administration is not solely about planting any tree but also knowing the plant’s suitability in the area for it to thrive. In the face of global warming, reforestation program should be comprehensive and could use VSU’s expertise in determining the right tree to plant in lowland or highland, dry or water prone area! :D

Sun arising in Mt. Pangasugan

It’s sad to know that Mount Pangasugan (part of it is reservation and protected area of the campus) has several mining application. During 1990s, they successfully stopped it and the former governor were caught saying in a presscon, “Never mind the forest.” This made the people mad. He lost the vote on the next election. I think the anti-mining vote is quite huge. (This is same in South Cotabato wherein all of politicians esp. for gubernatorial position last election vowed to stop mining in the area! Hello Gov. Pinggoy! Remember the covenant you signed?!)

I fell in love with the bikes! Teachers and students use bikes in going around the campus and even in the city! (so parang Korea or Holland lang ang feeling?! Hehe) Ate Liezl wanted to take her Masters here. And we joked with Doc Buboy that we’ll apply as RA!

I fell in love with qualitative research (again?!). I like Ms. Roa’s thesis on gender analysis in food security research. It showed a different way of seeing things, of being particular and maximizing the time in the field. The resource persons in the training are very accommodating too. No air whatsoever of their accomplishments. They happily shared how research- whether quantitative or quantitative can be useful especially for policies. We are lucky to have this opportunity to meet very passionate teachers and advocates. they told us we have to an eye for details and have the framework on seeing new things at something we used to think as mundane. Crucial part of the learning process is applying theories. Our group was assigned in Brgy. Kilim, one of the coastal barangays of Baybay City. We talked to the fishermen and fish vendor. They shared their problem on the unregulated entry of commercial fishing vessels. This made them powerless, they could no longer fish. The once bountiful fishing area for small fisherfolks (only using bingwit) has to contend with vessels coming from neighboring municipalities of Albuera and Cebu City. One peculiar thing shared also is the dynamics between the residents and the “separatist” group of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) founded by Ruben Ecleo in Dinagat Islands. They live in one sitio in Kilim, have their own resort and have their own fiesta (even grander than that of the barangay’s!). hhhmmm....

I love the old church and the plaza! They have the church built in 16th century! It is the 3rd oldest church in Leyte. It’s a classic Spanish pueblo wherein church are the center of the community’s social life.

I love the richness of the island's history! The islanders of Leyte were among the first to welcome the Spaniards but they were also among the first to resist the Spanish invaders. The early revolts and uprising against the encroaching Spaniards was started by the freedom, war–like, heavily tattooed inhabitants of Leyte known as the pintados.

The place is also known in our history books as the place where Magellan landed in the island of Homonhon. Then Magellan crossed Limasawa. On March 31, 1521 Eastern Sunday, was celebrated the First Mass in the Philippines. Although this has been contested by some historians believing that it is in Mazau in Butuan. However 1998 publication by the National Historical Institute supports its initial claim that Limasawa was the site of the First Mass.

The famous Leyte landing by General Douglas MacArthur with President Sergio Osmeña, General Carlos P. Romulo, Major General Basilio J. Valdes, and other key officers of USAFFE and the combined Allied liberating forces. It is to immortalize MacArthur's words, "I shall return."

Leyte is also in the world history as the site of the Battle of the Leyte Gulf during World War II. And the four day battle culminated in the beachhead landing of the Allied forces headed by Gen. McArthur.

Right now, it faces a different battle- the battle of political clans. Romualdezes are from here. Imelda Romualdez- Marcos' ancestral home is in Palo, his father’s house is now the Sto. Nino Shrine in Tacloban) ruled esp. during Martial Law. After EDSA, they fled fearing the strong anti-Marcos and his cronies sentiments. New political clan took over. The Petilla’s (and Cari’s in Baybay. They are related by marriage. Smooth political moves, eh?) Before the Romualdez had Sangyaw festival. The new festival was named Pintados. After several decades, the Romualdezes came back and regained their political clout. So the city had an ordinance declaring Sangyaw as Tacloban’s original festival. There once a time that delegates for the Pintados parade were blocked by the city! Leyteneos, can you keep up with this? TSK!

I just love seafoods! Our last night is seafood foodie bonding. It’s wonderful talking to Ate Daisy and Doc Buboy. Never ending talk about German technology, Leyte’s marine reservation and never-ending academic endeavors for the benefit of mankind! Hehe

Full moon seafood grill dining at Bayluan Park

In Tacloban, we dined at Bayluan Park. The Sto. Nino was lost and found in Samar. The ritual is called as “Bayluan” wherein the Sto Nino was return and exchanged.
Funny and sad that this is also a disputed place. The land is owned by the Provincial government while the development was done by the City. (Tacloban City ruled by Alfred Romualdez while provincial Government ruled by Carlos Jericho Petilla). City Hall faces Bayluan Park, guarding the place. Expect to see the fierce battle in new form in this historical town during elections.

I love Na Ning’s interiors! Sports-themed murals, funny cocktails, beers from country of your choice, games on flat screen TVs, table soccer! This is owned by the Palami siblings and located near the entrance of Leyte Park and Resort.

I love the beautiful color mats! Made from tikog, this colorful beautifully woven mats are created in Basey, Samar.

I love sunset and sunrise! I experienced one of the best sweetest sunset in Baybay and over San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the country! What more can I ask for? :)

San Juanico Bridge, is 2.16 kilometer bridge and 41 meters high that crosses over picturesque San Juanico Strait connecting the islands of Samar and Leyte. The bridge is a vital link between northern and southern Philippines through the Pan-Philippine Highway. This engineering marvel was built by Japanese engineers in 1969 and finished in 1973. We were euphoric riding the motorcycle as we traverse the length of the bridge watching the marvelous sunset over emerald green waters of San Juanico Strait.

It feels like being in two places at the same time! From Tacloban to Samar within 20 minutes. Zoooooom zoom!

So, how many times does one can fall in love? 0_o



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